It’s that time of year when many of you will be invited to assessment centres, following all your hard work in the autumn spent completing those labour-intensive application forms. This post focuses just on the interview component, with more on other forms of selection to follow in later posts. If you need more help with assessment centres now, then look at the information on the Careers Service website: where you will find guidance on group exercises, written tests and presentations.
This type of interview is by far the most common and is all about your skills. The key to success here is being confident about three key areas: you, the company to which you are applying and the wider sector in which you want to work.
• You must provide as much specific evidence as possible in your answers, relevant to that company’s needs, if you want to stand out.
• Use the STAR framework to structure your answers. Offer the Situation and Task concisely, then spend most of your time on the Action you took and why you took it (decisions, judgements, justifications) and the Result: what was the outcome and, very importantly, what did you learn from the experience?
• Typical competency questions would be: ‘Tell us about a time you worked in a team. What was your specific contribution?, or, ‘Describe a time when you solved a problem by thinking creatively.’ Get as much practice as you can in answering questions out loud, so that you can learn to think quickly and speak fluently. You can find lots of example questions in our interview skills booklet on the Careers web site.
Knowing the company and the sector
• This is your chance to show off your commercial awareness or knowledge of the company and sector in which you want to work. Make sure your research goes beyond the organisation’s web site! Google is the obvious place to start, and clicking on the ‘News’ tab will help you to find industry-specific information and relevant trade publications.
• Don’t forget to stay up to date with quality national newspapers and industry publications, many of which you can access online. Check the news on the morning of your interview, so you don’t get caught out by any important developments.
This is a less common style but one that is gaining in popularity. These interviews are aimed at identifying what you naturally enjoy doing and what motivates you, rather than competency interviews where they want to find out what you are capable of doing. The idea is to match candidates to work that most suits them, so they work more productively and in an engaged way.
Typical strengths-based interview questions include:
• What energises you and why?
• What did you enjoy most about your university course?
• What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning?
• What tells you that you’ve had a good day?
• What challenges do you take on to stretch yourself?
For this kind of interview, knowing yourself and being able to reflect on your motivations is crucial; it will be a much more personal experience than competency interview, so don’t be thrown! If you need help with some self-analysis, try the University’s Personal Development Planning tool on MyBristol, or have a look at Stella Cottrell’s book Skills for Success, available at the Careers Service.
Do come in and ask us about interview preparation if you’re not sure what to do.
Dr Tracy Johnson, Careers Adviser